Kevin Pietersen admits he is facing his toughest test

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Kevin Pietersen admits he is facing the toughest challenge of his career as he attempts to establish himself as a one-day international opener for England.

He has so far mustered laboured contributions of 14 and 26, in half-century stands with prolific first-wicket partner and captain Alastair Cook, as England have gone 2-0 up against Pakistan with two to play in the ongoing series. Both innings have paled in comparison to the fluency of Cook in his back-to-back hundreds at the top of the order.

But as Pietersen continues his struggles against Pakistan spin in the United Arab Emirates – Saeed Ajmal has got him out four times already here, in Tests and now ODIs – he made it clear yesterday his return to the opening position is for keeps. Even so, before he can begin to think about doing the job back in England too, he needs to find an answer to Ajmal and others.

“In my career so far, this is the toughest I’ve found it,” he said. “Because of this new DRS system, there are technical issues you have to look at in order to save yourself from batters not getting the benefit of the doubt any more.”

Asked if he has had to change his technique to try to cope, Pietersen said: “Yes. But it’s not just me. Left-arm spinners now are gold dust. Umpires are giving a lot more lbws, and it just has to be clipping [the stumps, according to computer simulation] and you’re out. Two, three, four years ago you were never ever out.”

Pietersen and his team-mates restricted themselves to fielding drills, rather than net practice, as a sandstorm raged around Dubai yesterday. All are fit for selection tomorrow.